Thursday, 14 October 2010

What Exactly is The Big Society All About?

A lot of people don't seem to understand the concept of the Big Society. This also includes lots of members of the Conservative party.

Some assume this is a bad thing - i.e. that people don't understand what the Big Society thing is all about.

It's not.

It's good because the media, politicians and pundits keep returning to it - and in so doing the ideas surrounding personal, social and civic responsibility are widely discussed, become understood, their importance appreciated and then slowly become more widely adopted. It's an itch that people cannot stop scratching.

But why don't people understand immediately what the Big Society is all about?

The reason many Conservative members don't understand what it's all about is that they completely understand the concepts and find it all rather obvious so keep grasping for something more profound - assuming that there must be more to it. There really isn't. It's actually quite simple. It's just that members of the Conservative party are usually people who do take responsibility for their lives, their actions and play an active and positive role in society. And becoming a member of the Conservative party is very often a stepping stone on the way to fulfilling a civic duty.

But for others who don't get it, the whole concept of the Big Society is quite perplexing. Having grown up with rights rather than responsibilities the whole idea of contributing to society is rather alien. For those people, the state is the provider and the controller - so society just isn't really relevant - so how on earth can it be 'Big'!

At the extremes are those who rely completely on the state. There have been examples in the last week of various people popping up on TV who have lots of children, don't work and have little real intention of ever working but who take it for granted that it is their 'right' that they can claim money from the state for their home, for their food and luxuries, for being unemployed and for each of their children. They will probably be the last to get it.

But lack of understanding personal, social and civic responsibility is not just confined to the extremes. The silent majority are also, to some degree, confused and perplexed by the Big Society. To them the state takes taxes and then it provides services and benefits - surely we shouldn't move away from this model in the direction of some basis upon which individuals work together to provide some of the help and support that others need, instead of the all powerful state?

If the State were a success then it would be a difficult thing to propose. But the reality is that the state system has failed. It has taxed us hugely, taking away the incentive to work for many, then given widely to others thus creating dependency and further disincentive to work. And then when as a consequence demands grew ever greater, the state has borrowed to the hilt and ploughed billions into inefficiently and ineffectively providing services and often pointless employment to millions.

So the process of re-engineering our nation requires more than simply creating the opportunities for business and social enterprises to prosper and flourish - it needs a change in our national mind-set.

The Big Society is a vindication for some, a revelation for others and if you still don't get it then don't get upset, stamp your feet and whimper 'but I don't get it!!!'. Don't worry. That's fine because as you work it out, millions are doing so at the same time and being part of this realisation process is you taking part in a timely and worthwhile social revolution that will benefit you, your family, the people you interact with and the nation as a whole - perhaps even the wider world in time.

Wanna slogan - here's one.

The Big Society - Have You Got it Yet?


Anonymous said...

..."And becoming a member of the Conservative party is very often a stepping stone on the way to fulfilling a civic duty." My comedy/sarcasm radar seems to be swtiched off-but this is a joke right?

Robin Horsley said...

No - absolute fact. Example - everyone who becomes a Conservative Councillor will have at some point joined the party previously - often with this eventual aim in mind.

Whilst being mindful of not pre-judging too much myself, I can't help but wonder if you have adopted some kind of prejudicial ideas about the sort of people who join the Conservative party if you think I am joking?

The Conservative party attracts all kinds of people - black, white, gay, straight, disabled - all kinds. What unites them is that they want to make a positive difference.

They spend less time standing on the sidelines shouting abuse and more time working out what to do and then get involved in doing it.

I commend it to you.

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